For years we have all been consumed by measuring our success, when it comes to health and fitness regimes, on the scales and our BMI (Body Mass Index).
But are these the best markers to look at?
What does weight and BMI actually tell us?
Well obviously weight tells us exactly how much we weigh. But human body weight is comprised of many things such as, fat, muscle, organs, hair, water. So there are many things can change to alter our bodyweight, for example, you may be dehydrated one day and therefore weigh lighter than the previous day when you weren’t dehydrated. So does this mean you had a successful week regarding your weight loss or are you just dehydrated?
BMI (Body Mass Index) is measure used to decide whether you are a healthy body weight for your height. It is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by your height in metres, and dividing the answer by your height again. This will give you a score, in which will determine whether you are overweight (>25), healthy weight (18.5 – 24.9), underweight (<18.5) or obese (>30).
BMI, which was first used in 1832, was created and originally used for calculating life assurance premiums depending on peoples score.
However, BMI is severely flawed as it does not take in to account how much of your weight is made up of muscle and how much is fat. So because muscle weighs more than fat does, someone with a higher proportion of muscle may come out as obese or overweight.
As a result, certain people get labelled with certain categories that may not be suitable given their actual physical appearance.
Furthermore, neither assessment helps us identify how much nor where we are storing our fat, even though this is crucial to predicting health outcomes.
So if weight and BMI are old news, then what should we be looking at?
A good place to look for a really good measure of health and how at risk we are of developing chronic diseases or conditions is Waist-to-Hip ratio.
We store spare body fat under the skin, and also around the vital organs in our abdomen. If we carry a large amount of our fat around the abdomen this causes more health problems than, say, fat carried around the bottom or on the thighs. Having a large amount of belly fat (when compared to having fat around the bottom or thighs) makes you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and heart problems. If you carry excess weight around your abdomen, that means you’re an “apple” shape. Those who carry excess fat around the bottom and thighs are “pear” shaped.
Are you a PEAR or an APPLE and what does this mean for your health and fitness?
Identifying your waist-to-hip ratio will provide you with insight into your general health, this is achieved by taking the measurement of your waist (inches) and dividing it by the measurement of your hips (inches). The results from the test are a good indicator of general health and highlight those that are likely to be less healthy and suffer from potential medical conditions.
How to find your waist to hip ratio
The testing procedure is actually very simple, it involves taking two measurements, one from your waist and one from your hips. You can take it yourself using a tape measure, or if you have someone who could measure for you that would be preferred for accurate measurements.
- Tape measure
- You should stand erect, abdominal & buttocks relaxed, arms at the side and feet together.
- Measure your waist at it’s narrowest point and then measure the hips at the widest point.
- Waist circumference is measured midway between the lower rib margin and the iliac crest in the horizontal plane.
- The hip circumference is measured at the point yielding the maximum circumference over the buttocks.
- Now divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement.
What your WHR result means?
Use the table below to identify your range
|Moderately Low Risk
|Moderately High Risk
Those that show a lower score and carry excess weight around their buttocks and thighs are PEAR shaped.
Those that show a higher score and carry excess weight around their abdomen are APPLE shape.
In both cases, any excess weight will put you at an increased risk to disease and heart conditions and those that are APPLE shaped would be advised to change their shape. All of which can be achieved by making slight alterations to nutrition, and also introducing regular exercise that ideally combines a mix of resistance training (e.g. dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.) and cardio training (e.g. swimming, running, hiking, etc.)
So next time you think about stepping on the scales, take a minute to think whether this is helping you determine if you are in a healthier position or are you just a bit dehydrated compared to yesterday?